To be completely honest, when I first began planning my trip to Launceston, I found myself a little underwhelmed with the options that my online research suggested for things to do and see in and around the city. Whilst Cradle Mountain acted as the setting for my daydreams for many, MANY years, the lack of other things to drive me to fork out for the airfare and other expenses kept me away… until an email from Jetstar Australia advertising $29 flights from Sydney to Launceston landed in my mailbox.
Upon my arrival in Launceston, I soon discovered that the city had been planning a surprise party for me all this time – disguising itself as a boring little city when it was, in fact, a city bustling with both natural and historical wonders just waiting to greet me. In the hope that you – unlike my past self – will not let the city of Launceston trick you, I thought I would share with you some of the many wonderful things that await your arrival in lovely Launceston.
Where to stay in Launceston…
Sure there is no shortage of decent hotels in the Launceston CBD…. but why stay in an ordinary hotel when you can stay in a hotel that is a tourist attraction in its own right. The Leisure Inn Penny Royal is actually an old corn mill built in 1840 that was transported 54 kilometres (stone by stone!) from its original location and rebuilt into a modern hotel. While the outside of the rooms maintain all the charm of a medieval-themed theme park (just check out the antique doors with each rooms unique name posted on it below!), the rooms themselves are more comfortable and well-appointed with modern amenities than most hotels that you’ll find across Australia. You even have the choice to stay in one of the 1, 2 or 3 bedroom apartments with fully equipped kitchenettes. Let me just say that I had no problem starting and finishing my university assignment due during my 3-day stay!
When it comes to exploring Launceston, the Leisure Inn Penny Royal could not be more appropriately located being a short 5-minute walk from Launceston CBD and the closest hotel to the Cataract Gorge (the number one attraction in Launceston!). What’s more is for those nights when you can’t turn your brain off, you can just wander outside and find instant peace as you gaze up at the hotel’s windmill against the backdrop of the universe. In this way, the heritage property amplifies the old-world charm of the city of Launceston.
5 super fun things to do during your stay in Launceston…
1. Go for a walk and end up in Japan…
Do you dream of visiting Japan to see the snow monkeys but are short on cash? Why not visit Launceston instead. It might seem totally bananas (sorry – I just couldn’t help myself), but right at the entrance to the Launceston City Park sits a permanent Japanese snow monkey exhibit! The humanitarians among you will be glad to know that the Launceston city council has gone to great lengths to provide the monkeys with a home that is safe, comfortable and enjoyable, and any doubts about otherwise will be quickly erased when you arrive. The exhibit is open from 8am – 4pm (4.30pm in Summer) every day.
2. Remind yourself how beautiful and unique this Earth is on a day trip to the Bay of Fires
Time stands still on this bay on the north-eastern coast of Tasmania. I could have spent days walking along the sugar-white sandy beaches, swimming in the impossibly clear sea and climbing those rocks spray painted the colour of fire by Mother Nature. Moments spent in the Bay of Fires remind me of the small space I occupy in this huge universe we live in. My suggestion if you’re looking for a retreat from the chaos of life, forget the tropical island getaway and head to the Bay of Fires in Tasmania instead! The bay is a 2.5-hour drive northeast of Launceston and can be easily visited on a day trip from the CBD.
3. Confront your fear of heights on the world’s LONGEST single span chairlift over Cataract Gorge
Let me first just say that pictures cannot do this experience justice. When I first read about the Cataract Gorge chairlift, I didn’t see what all the fuss was about. However, on my stroll along the Cataract Gorge cliff walk I caught a glimpse of the immensity of the attraction and immediately knew I had to jump on board. The Cataract Gorge covers 192 hectares and is home to a large diversity of plants and animals that live in the bushland. Built in 1972, the chairlift covers a distance of 457 metres, spanning the huge natural (and often surging) basin of Cataract Gorge. It takes about 8 minutes to ride across Cataract Gorge and First Basin and operates from 9am – 4.30pm (5.30pm in Summer) daily.
4. Chuck on your hiking boots and take a trip to Cradle Mountain National Park
Approximately 80 million years ago, Tasmania’s east coast was connected to New Zealand whilst the islands west coast was connected to Antarctica. As a result, there is a clear contrast in the two sides of the island that I encourage you to observe during your stay in Launceston. Whilst Tasmania’s east coast is reminiscent of New Zealand’s rolling hills and pristine beaches (which you’ll see for yourself en route to the Bay of Fires), the west coast is more closely linked to Antarctica with wild forests and glacier-shaped mountain peaks (such as Cradle Mountain). A mere 2-hour drive from Launceston and reachable on day trips from the CBD, a visit to Cradle Mountain will be your best option to see this drastic change in environment. The mountain itself is worth a visit with its perfect new moon curve peak that has become something of a symbol for the entire island of Tasmania. Oh, and did I mention that this place is basically wombat heaven – I promise you won’t leave without seeing at least two of these cuties!
5. Jump around on the Alexandra Suspension Bridge atop Cataract Gorge
If Launceston was a person, the Cataract Gorge would be its lungs – central to its way of life and existence. So what better way to get a sense of Launceston than to take a walk around in its shoes. Beginning from the Leisure Inn Penny Royal, all you need to do is cross the elegant Kings Bridge directly outside the hotel and follow the 15-minute cliff walk to arrive at the Alexandra Suspension Bridge. As you stand on the creaking bridge, with the rush of the river below, you will learn the definition of Launceston. (Note: if you choose to only take the one-way option on the chairlift this is how you’ll return across the gorge anyway).
I was invited to stay my first night free at the Leisure Inn Penny Royal (I ended up staying 3 as I was far too comfortable!); as always all opinions are my own.
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